Speaker dumps pair for dissent
The only 2 'no' voters on the insurance bill lose their leadership posts in the House.

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Jason Garcia and John Kennedy
Published  January 25, 2007

TALLAHASSEE -- House Speaker Marco Rubio forced a pair of lawmakers from their leadership posts Wednesday, two days after they voted against a high-profile insurance package.

Rubio removed Rep. Don Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, as chairman of the House Jobs & Entrepreneurship Council, and Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, as chairman of the Safety & Security Council. The two also were stripped of seats on the powerful Rules & Calendar Council, which controls which bills make it to the House floor.

Brown and Ross cast the sole dissenting votes in Monday's 116-2 vote in the House on the insurance plan, which seeks to lower rates by making Floridians assume more of the financial risk from hurricanes. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, and Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign it today.

Ross said Rubio called him into his office in the afternoon and asked for his resignation. Ross said Rubio told him that "he needs leaders that are with him on major votes."

"My vote cost me my chairmanship. That's the price you pay if you want to express yourself," Ross said, though he added that he did not hold hard feelings toward the speaker.

Brown, an insurance agent, declined to discuss what happened.

A spokeswoman for Rubio would not comment beyond a terse statement in which Rubio said Brown and Ross "offered" their resignations as council chairs.

Both men had been expected to play lead roles in crafting insurance changes this year. Brown began the year as the House's point man on the issue, though he had been pushed aside in recent weeks. Ross had chaired the House's Insurance Committee until only a month ago, when he was promoted to the council post.

The two lawmakers also were heavily involved in shaping insurance legislation last year, which passed overwhelmingly at the time but has since been derided as too industry-friendly. The package approved by the Legislature this week erases much of that law.

Ross said this year's bill drives the state too far into the insurance business.

"Now you've created insurance as an essential government function, the same as you have done with transportation and public safety and education," he said.

After their demotions, Brown was named chairman of the Insurance Committee, suggesting that little more action on the issue may happen during this spring's regular legislative session. He also received three other lesser assignments.